We’re excited to reveal the cover for To Hold Up the Sky, a breathtaking collection of imaginative science fiction from Cixin Liu, the New York Times bestselling author of The Three-Body Problem. Check out the full cover below, along with the forward to the collection.
Cixin Liu is the most prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People’s Republic of China. Liu is an eight-time winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo) and a winner of the Chinese Nebula Award. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer in a power plant. His novels include The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End.
To Hold Up the Sky, with translations by Joel Martinsen, publishes October 20th with Tor Books. The collection includes:
- Full Spectrum Barrage Jamming
- The Village Teacher
- Fire in the Earth
- Time Migration
- Ode to joy
- Cloud of Poems
- Sea of Dreams
- Cloud of Poems
- The Thinker
This anthology includes more than ten of my short stories, most of which were published more than a decade ago. At that time, sci-fi was still a very marginal pursuit in China. The genre had few readers and was largely overlooked. In China, science fiction is seen as something foreign; its fundamental elements have never been a part of Chinese culture. Life has passed steadily, with few changes, from generation to generation over the course of China’s long history, so people unconsciously believe that life will be ever thus. Historically, the term “future” itself appeared mostly in Buddhist texts, which are also foreign; people have seldom thought about or paid attention to the Future in their daily lives.
But in recent years, things have changed drastically. China has entered wholesale into a process of rapid modernization, and every day, all around us, there are stupefying changes. Suddenly, the future stands before us in vivid detail, and it exerts a huge appeal. Old China has suddenly become a nation with an extremely keen sense of the future. It is understandable why people, under such circumstances, would pay unprecedented attention to science fiction.
In Europe and the U.S., the question I’m asked most often is: “What makes Chinese science fiction Chinese?” For my part, I have never consciously or deliberately tried to make my sci-fi more Chinese. The stories in this anthology touch on a variety of sci-fi themes, but they all have something in common: they are about things that concern all of humanity, and the challenges and crises they depict are all things humanity faces together. In fact, when you read or make science fiction, your sympathy automatically moves away from ideas of ethnicity and nation and toward a higher idea of humanity as a whole; from this vantage, humanity naturally becomes a collective unit, rather than an assembly of different parts divided by ethnicity and nation. Even if the sci-fi you read or write tells a distinctly trivial, mundane, or personal story, you’ll still have this feeling. I believe this is one of the most valuable features of science fiction.
In China, the new generation’s way of thinking is changing dramatically. They are gradually turning their eyes away from the reality of their immediate environment and the mundanities of life toward the distant, starry sky and the future. More and more, they are beginning to see themselves as members of humankind, not merely as Chinese people. They are also beginning to care about those ultimate questions that their forebears seldom considered: where humans and the universe came from, and where they’re going. This change in their thinking will profoundly affect China’s future and even the future of humanity. The science fiction stories in this book are a vivid expression of this new way of thinking.
Yet I am also Chinese, and, whether by design or not, these stories will inevitably have a strong Chinese flavor, imbued with the culture, history, and present reality of China.
In creating sci-fi, I always try hard to imagine and describe the relationship between the Great and the Small.
“The Small” refers here to human smallness. As individuals, we are small indeed, and collectively, humanity is small, too. Imagine a concert attended by all of humanity. How big a venue would you need? Not as big as I’d imagined – a space about as large as Shanghai’s Pudong District would suffice. Here’s another perverse thought experiment: if you were to make a meatball out of humankind, its diameter would be less than a kilometer.
“The Great” refers, of course, to the universe. Every person has a deep sense of its enormity. The most distant light we see was sent out over ten billion years ago. If you shrank the Solar System to the size of a dinner plate, the diameter of a correspondingly shrunken Milky Way would still be 100,000 kilometers.
In my sci-fi, I challenge myself to imagine the relationship between Small people and the Great universe – not in the metaphysical sense of philosophy, nor as when someone looks up at the starry sky and feels such sentiment and pathos that their views on human life and the universe change. Stories about such relationships between people and the universe are not science fiction; they are Realism. In my sci-fi, I work to imagine the direct, tangible relationship between people and the universe. In this relationship, the evolution and metamorphoses of the universe are inseparable from human life and human fate.
It’s very difficult work, and it’s the greatest challenge I face when writing science fiction. Common sense tells us that there is no such relationship. Whether the universe is expanding or contracting, or whether a star ten billion light years away has gone supernova truly has nothing to do with the mundane, insignificant events of my life. Yet I firmly believe that there is a relationship between humanity and the universe. When it was born, the universe was smaller than an atom, and everything within it was intermixed as a single whole; the natural connection between the universe’s small parts and its great entirety was thus determined. Though the universe has expanded to whatever its current size, this connection still exists, and if we can’t see it now, that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to in the future. I work hard to imagine all sorts of possibilities in the relationship between people and the universe, and I try to turn what I imagine into thrilling fiction. This anthology, just as its title suggests, contains a portion of my efforts.
Thank you all!
Excerpted from To Hold Up the Sky, copyright © 2020 by Cixin Liu.